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In general the prosperity of the preceding year was continued, and the people were alive to all kinds of business enterprises. President Diaz's government was successful and popular. A number of new railway lines was projected. The Monterey and Mexican Gulf Railway was completed August 26, and as the year closed, the Pachucha branch of the Mexican Central Railway was finished. Improvements in the harbour of Tampico, with the object of making it a deep-water port, were being effected in September, which promised to give the town its ancient position as the principal point of entry on the Mexican seaboard. The President, in opening Congress on September 16, spoke as follows:-"The excellent state of the Public Treasury is maintained. In the fiscal year which closed June 30, the general volume of revenue exceeded by more than a million of dollars the total collection of the previous year. Our credit maintains a distinguished place abroad, although Mexican securities are not exempt from the fluctuations which in various ways are felt by all other securities in those money markets." A new tariff, with a considerable advance of duties on many articles of American manufacture, came into force November 1, and gave great satisfaction to manufacturers and importers. Another indication of progress appeared in the efforts of the Government to create a navy. According to official statements, the population of the country was 11,638,824. Agriculture, despite the fertility of the soil, suffered some serious reverses. Severe droughts injured the cotton crop, making the yield much below that of 1890. Coffee-growing was the best paying industry of the country. In December the complete failure of the maize crop and black bean crop was causing an incipient famine in some agricultural districts, and urgent petitions were sent to Congress for the removal of the tax on maize, long enough for the people to replenish their grain supply from the United States. In the States of Zacatecas and Jalisco there were famine riots, and Indian corn had advanced 100 per cent. in price.
Mexico is a Federal Republic, originally with nineteen States. There are now twenty-seven States, with two territories and one Federal district-the city of Mexico. There is one member of Congress for 40,000 inhabitants. Senators are elected by the people in the same manner as the members of the Lower House. The Congress meets every year from September 16 to December 15, and from April 1 to May 31. The revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891, was $41,770,000. Expenditures were $38,452,804. The total debt of the country in 1890 was $113,606,675. The external debt, amounting to 10,500,000l., was contracted in London. The whole military force of the
country is about 26,000 men. The nucleus of a navy exists in a fleet of two unarmoured gun vessels of 450 tons and 600horse power each, armed with 220-pounders, and three gunboats.
IV. CENTRAL AMERICA.
Guatemala.-A very exciting political struggle for the Presidency of the State was in progress during the summer, the election taking place at the close of the year. Five candidates were in the field, and President Barillas was seeking re-election, although debarred by the Constitution from again becoming President. He was accused of attempting to keep in office, if necessary, by force. Guatemala was making rapid progress in trade and commerce. The revenue receipts in 1890 were $8,527,683, and expenditures were $8,300,778; exports, $14,401,534; imports, $6,930,434. The total national debt was $783,259. Great advance has been made in coffee cultivation. In ten years, production has more than doubled, and the prices realised have more than quadrupled. In the interior districts of Chiapas, in Northern Guatemala, a long drought was followed by great scarcity of food. Nearly all the live stock died or were killed for food, and it was announced in December that not less than 5,000 persons had died from starvation and disease caused by want. The duties on cattle, flour, and foreign provisions were remitted by the Government in August on account of the great scarcity.
Honduras.-The Presidential election took place in September, resulting in the success of General Ponciano Leiva, who had been Minister of War, and who was the nominee of the Progressionist party.
Great advantage was expected to result from the construction of waggon-roads in the interior, and an important contract was made by the Government to this end, as lack of easy intercommunication has hitherto been a great barrier to the development of the country.
Panama Canal.-Although this undertaking was considered as practically dead, M. Wyse was attempting in July to form a new company on the ruins of the old one, to carry out a scheme for the completion of the canal by forming a great inland lake, to be reached by three locks on either side. He represented that 600 millions of francs would be required, which, with the machinery and plant of the old company, would give ample means for finishing the work. The feeling in France was bitter against M. de Lesseps and the other directors of the late Panama Canal Company. The amount sunk in the Panama project was stated in round figures to be 53,000,000l. sterling; but of this sum only 783 millions of francs were actually spent on the works of the Isthmus, the rest being wasted in expenditures of various kinds in France.
Nicaragua Canal.-Good progress was made with the Nicaragua Canal, and there were hopes of finishing it in 1897. The company finds its chief support in the United States, and President Harrison, in his message to Congress in December, stated that it was of the highest concern to the United States that the canal should be speedily constructed, at the smallest possible cost. He recommended also a Government guarantee for the interest on the bonds, to control the stock. Last year $65,000,000 was the highest sum estimated necessary for completing the work; but in December the company were making efforts to secure the guarantee of the United States Government for the issue of $100,000,000 worth of bonds.
V. WEST INDIES.
Cuba.-A Commission of the leading representatives of commercial and agricultural industries in the island visited Spain in January by invitation of the Government. Several conferences with the Colonial Minister were held, to discuss the grave situation of commercial and financial affairs, induced partly by the high tariff of the United States, and partly by causes within the control of the Spanish Government. The Commission claimed of Spain that the law of July 1883 should be abolished, that tobacco should have a free sale on payment of the duties; that the industrial tax on sugar should be suppressed, and that all export duties should be abolished. They also asked for a complete reform of the Custom Houses in the island, and especially the discontinuance of the system allowing Custom House officials to participate in the fines imposed.
Mr. Foster succeeded later, as a special envoy from the United States, in arranging a basis of reciprocity in trade between Cuba and the United States. Spain signed the treaty with reluctance, but the pressure of her colony was too strong, and she was obliged to yield.
Cuba has a very fertile soil, but only about one-third of the land is under cultivation. The total exports are in value about 30,000,000l. sterling. The sugar crop in 1891 amounted to one million tons, and the preceding year to 800,000 tons. A proper currency is greatly needed in the island, as it is very difficult to get change in business transactions. The highway robberies that in former years were so prevalent, were fast diminishing under the rule of Viceroy and Captain-General Potavieja.
Hayti.-Attempts were made by the political enemies of President Hippolyte to assassinate him in April. While riding, in company with some of his staff, near Jacmel, he was fired upon by four men hidden under a bridge. Two of the President's attendants were killed by the assassins, who escaped arrest. On May 28 there was a revolt at Port-au-Prince. The streets were crowded with women and children, when a band of soldiers, led
by General Guerrier, attacked the prisons, setting free the prisoners, while another body of rebels kept up a firing at the arsenal gates, to prevent aid being sent from there. Troops were promptly ordered out, to quell the uprising, by General Hippolyte. Some thirty rioters were shot down, and among them several innocent and unarmed persons were killed.
The efforts of the United States Government to secure a lease of the St. Nicholas Mole for a coaling station were met by refusal by Hayti, and there was some likelihood that the French would gain control of the port sooner or later.
Jamaica.-The Industrial Exhibition was opened January 27, and closed May 2, and was visited by 304,000 people. It increased the revenue of Jamaica by over 60,000l. for the year, extended trade relations, improved local business, and brought all classes together to work for a common object. Sir Henry Blake, the Governor of the Island, with Lady Blake, made every exertion to secure the complete success of the exhibition.
The railway syndicate that has control of the lines intended eventually to encircle the island, were pushing forward the work as rapidly as possible. American cars were replacing the English carriages in use when the road was purchased.
Grenada. The cultivation of the sugar-cane has been nearly abandoned on this island, and only enough is now produced to satisfy local wants. The chief production is cocoa. Last year's export was nearly 6,500,000 lbs., and the export increases yearly. In addition to this source of revenue a prosperous trade in tropical fruits has sprung up with the United States.
St. Vincent.-There was a riot in the island of St. Vincent in December, owing to the attempt of the Government to pass a law providing for the reduction of the number of judges of the Appeal Court from four to three. The people protested against the proposed measure, but the British Colonial Office directed the Governor to carry through the law. When the Governor arrived from Grenada the people followed him shouting and hooting, compelling him to take refuge in the Government office. Her Majesty's sloop Buzzard was summoned from Barbados, and arrived shortly afterwards at Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent. Captain Browne went ashore, when a crowd of 600 people surrounded his carriage and began to throw stones. Captain Browne was hit and wounded by the missiles and the carriage was damaged.
After the captain had reached the Government offices, the crowd paraded the streets and threw stones at the house, several persons inside being injured. Affairs became so threatening that it was found necessary to land thirty seamen. They succeeded in clearing the streets, but Captain Browne, on leaving the Government office in the evening, was again attacked by a furious crowd, and bloodshed would surely have occurred if
seventy seamen with a Nordenfeldt gun had not arrived and restored order. The Governor ultimately summoned the Legislative Council and introduced the measure, which was passed by the vote of the official majority against the unanimous vote of the unofficial members.
Trinidad and Tobago.-Sugar raising has not been remunerative for the last few years on these islands, but there was an increased export of cocoa, and 80,000 tons of asphalte were taken from the pitch lake in Trinidad last year. Sir Frederick Napier Broome, the newly-appointed Governor of the Islands, entered upon the duties of his office.
VI. SOUTH AMERICA.
Argentine Republic.-Affairs in Argentina went on from bad to worse during the year 1891. After the revolution of July 1890, Vice-President Pellegrini succeeded the deposed President Celman, having formed a coalition Cabinet. The Presidential election for a term of six years was expected to occur in March 1892, and there was much excitement in the country. General Bartolomé Mitre, who had held the office of President before, a worthy and much respected man, was invited to become a candidate, and for a time it seemed that he would be chosen by the consent of all parties, but dissensions arose later among the various parties, and his chances of election were much lessened. The Union Civica that supported his nomination, being composed principally of Buenos Ayres citizens, aroused the jealousy of the people in the interior provinces to such a degree, that in June the Radical party nominated Señor Saenz Pena for the Presidency, while several other candidates were proposed by the other political parties. In October General Mitre announced his intention of withdrawing from the contest on account of the want of unanimity among his supporters. There were local outbreaks from time to time during the whole year, with riots and disturbances caused by political and local dissensions, while the depressed condition of business affairs no doubt helped to aggravate them.
The Budget for 1892, as finally voted, fixed the expenditure at 4,600,000l., with an estimated revenue of 4,400,000l., but it was feared that the Congress had secretly voted for additional expenditure to provide for new ironclads and armaments, quite out of proportion to the resources of the country. The Customs revenue, for nine months ending in September, showed a reduction of 660,000l., compared with the same months of the preceding year.
The harvest for 1891 was valued at 16,420,000l. Wood and timber produced 6,600,000l., hides 4,100,000l., and miscellaneous articles 11,000,000l. The continual inflation of the currency gave reason for the gravest apprehension. At different periods